Double Dactyls

Hiptomus hoptimus
Jupiter Optimus
Came to the earth in the
Form of a swan

Leda pretended to
Heaven she said had been
Egging her on

Thus was I introduced to a marvelous comic poetic form about thirty years ago when I read the New Statesman’s wonderfully erudite Weekend Competition. 

The basic rules are simple. There are two quatrains. The first three lines of each quatrain are double dactyls. A dactyl is a long syllable followed by two short ones. Dah did dit. So each of the first three lines of each quatrain has the rhythm 

Dah did dit, dah did dit

The fourth line of each quatrain is four equally accented syllables. Da da da da.

Then there are a bunch of additional rules as follows. They make these things both harder to write and a more satisfying, humorous and generally classy achievement when they’re obeyed. 

1. The first line consists of two nonsense words generally two nonsense dactyls. Like higgledy-piggledy.
2. The second line contains the subject and preferably the whole subject and nothing but the subject. 

The cognoscenti of the New Statesman were also required to make the second line of the second stanza a single word double dactyl. This is the best place for this rule, but sometimes people don’t stick to that rule and sometimes they stick the single word in the next (third) line. 

That’s it folks. Now I don’t know if any Troppodillians can come up with the erudition and wit of the three double dactyls I committed to memory then. They’re all better than the various ones I can find on the net. I’ve quoted one marvel. Here are the other two.

Folkery Fakery
Alice B Toklas’s 
Gimmicks with Gert kept them
both in the news

Asked who had written that 
Gert said a ruse is a 
ruse is a ruse.


Um pah pah, um pah pah
Ludwig van Beethoven 
Vampted at the piano with 
Only one thumb

Though he played loudly and 
That’s how he came upon
Da da da dum!

A friend of mind Simon Rosenberg wrote a good one about me though it has a slight flaw. 

Higgledy piggledy 
Nicholas Gruen was 
Dreaming of staring at 
AFL Park. 

Skillfully, stoically 
Flew for the mark

Anyway, perhaps TroppoMcDillians (I had to add in the ‘Mc’ to make it a double dactyl) might like to have a go.

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18 years ago

Bidactyl, try dactyl,
Length’s not what it takes,
Stess can’t be over-
Stressed in the make.

The Umm, in ‘Umm pah
pah’ is short, but stressed,
So stress rules the dactyl,
Foot length is a fake.

18 years ago

Headbending mindbinding
Too fucking erudite
For your own good.

What is the point of this
Tropical bloggery
Or chattering class?

*a word not found in the dictionary, or anywhere else

18 years ago

Oy, sorry about that.
Could an administrator perhaps fix up the carriage returns in my entry and Alan’s?

judy armstrong
judy armstrong
18 years ago

For my last two book launches I have composed a dd, but they are not totally comprehensible to people with no knowledge of the book: eg last Sunday (April 9), for The Maestro’s Table (Text), I read out:
Itally, ditally/ Organist Sergio/Told all his friends to/Come visit Dosson.
He gave them prosecco from/Valdobbiadene/Then wondered they just/Wouldn’t move on. (Sergio=Sergio de Pieri; Dosson=his village in the Veneto; Valdobbiadene makes almost the best prosecco in Italy.)

18 years ago
17 years ago